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LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar review

A cinematic soundbar that’s sometimes more trouble than it’s worth

LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
(Image: © LG)

Our Verdict

The LG SN8YG is a great plug-and-play soundbar for folks who want a simple Dolby Atmos setup and easy-to-use features like Chromecast Audio and Google Assistant. That said, some of its more advanced features aren’t as intuitive as they should be, and the whole package is a bit on the pricey side.

For

  • Booming cinematic sound
  • Wide stereo soundstage
  • Google Assistant integration
  • Built-in Chromecast

Against

  • Moderately expensive
  • Limited height presence
  • Woefully bad mobile app
  • No surround units

The LG SN8YG is part of the zeitgeist of manufacturers making easy-to-use Dolby Atmos soundbars. But with Vizio, Samsung and Sony all making their own rival bars, what does LG bring to the table to separate it from the pack?

The answer, largely, is the integration of Google Assistant directly into the soundbar as well as LG's partnership with Meridian Audio to get the SN8YG tuning just right. On the features side, LG's new soundbar supports both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos, plus Hi-Res Audio and AI Room Calibration that should, in theory, help it get ahead of the competition.

The bad news? It’s just a two-piece system, for one; for another, getting at some of those features like AI Room Calibration is difficult because they’re locked behind an unresponsive mobile app. Keep in mind too that just because this soundbar supports Dolby Atmos doesn’t necessarily mean that it does it as well as other discrete systems.

The SN8YG's flawed additional features and premium price tag can be off-putting, but for folks who simply want cinematic sound that enhances the midrange and rocks a wide soundstage, the LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar delivers the goods.

Price and release date 

The LG SN8YG is new for 2020 and debuted at CES 2020 before getting a full roll out in late June / early July. In terms of price, you’re looking at $799.99 (around £600, AU$1,100) but most retailers have already it marked down to just $649.99.

So how does that stack up against other soundbars? Compared to the $200 Vizio V-Series 2.1 Soundbar which is $179, the SN8YG is significantly more expensive. But when compared to similarly-spec’d, Dolby Atmos-capable soundbars like the Sony HT-G700 and Samsung HW-Q70T, you’ll find that most of them cost around the same price.

The one exception to that rule? The Vizio 36" 5.1.2 Home Theater Sound System with Dolby Atmos that runs just $499 and comes with two surround units. For US AV enthusiasts, it’s a cheaper option that has a lot of the same features (and drawbacks).

LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

Design

The LG SN8YG is a sleek soundbar with a low profile that should fit underneath most TVs. The sub is obviously a bit more stout and conspicuous in the living room, but it’s also not the largest and most inconvenient of subwoofers we’ve seen either.

The top has a brushed aluminum finish that looks fairly fancy and hosts a row of touch-capacitive playback controls alongside two plastic grilles for the upfiring speakers, while the front drivers are housed inside a separate silver plastic grille. 

In terms of dimensions you’re looking at  2.2 x 41.7 x 4.7 inches (LxWxD) for the soundbar and 15.4 x 8.7 x 12.3 inches for the subwoofer.

Inside the soundbar you’ve obviously got the three drivers for the left, right, and center channels but the SN8YG also adds two top-firing speakers as well – though we noticed they don’t often make a ton of noise if you’re watching standard stereo or surround sound content.

In terms of connections, the soundbar is fairly average with one HDMI-In, one HDMI-Out (ARC/eARC enabled), plus optical audio and USB. It’d be nice to have more than one HDMI-In here, but what’s on offer works, too.

The plastic remote that ships with the soundbar is basic, but passable, and the soundbar's LED lights do a good job of letting you know which mode you're using and if it's playing a Dolby Atmos source.

In fact, the only real disappointment in terms of design is that the SN8YG is only a two-piece system: there’s just the bar and the sub. You can add on surround speakers with the 2.0 Channel Rear Speaker Kit (LG SPK8-S 2.0), but that will set you back an additional $149.

LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

Features

The LG SN8YG brings a lot to the table in terms of features… the catch is that it can be hard to get at the ones that are tied to LG’s difficult-to-use Wi-Fi Speaker app.

The ones that are easy and straightforward, however, are the integration of Bluetooth and Chromecast, the latter of which can be used as soon as you link it to your Google Home account. This also enables you to summon Google Assistant on the soundbar, which can be pretty handy if you don’t already have a Google Assistant speaker in your living room.

What’s a little less easy to use, though, is the LG Wi-Fi Speaker app that’s required for the AI Room Calibration tool. To set it up, you’ll want to make sure the soundbar is set to Wi-Fi mode and then open the app on the mobile device. What sounds simple took us a week to finally get set up properly (the app told us that there were no speakers on the network), and only then could we try out the AI Room Calibration tool.

Through the app you’ll be able to change the tuning of the soundbar from its default AI Sound Pro setting to one of the other presets, as well as turn on auto volume leveling if you find that you’re having problems finding the right volume level to fit both quiet and loud scenes.

The problem with the app is that it feels dated compared to the competition, like the Sonos app, for example – and unlike the soundbar itself which seems to work 100% of the time, the app doesn’t always work. 

LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

Sound

While some soundbars offer bucketloads of bass or go heavy on the high-end, the SN8YG goes right down the middle, focusing on enhancing vocal clarity and making dialogue easier to hear. That said, the accompanying subwoofer adds an almost cinematic element to the mix that makes action sequences sound dynamic.

To put the soundbar to the test, we watched Season 2 of Umbrella Academy on Netflix when it debuted in August, and we really felt the action sequences benefited from the SN8YG's bombastic bass response and clear dialogue.

We also liked that the soundbar still has a fairly wide soundstage and a wide sweet spot that allows you to sit anywhere in the room and still get good stereo sound. 

Of course, we emphasize stereo sound there because the surround sound does disappoint a bit, especially when pitted against a true 5.1 or 5.1.2 system. You’ll still get left-right separation, but a stereo sweep will show you that the back-left and back-right channels simply don’t sound convincing here.

LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

That’s especially true if you watch something in Dolby Atmos. We watched a half-dozen nature docs on Netflix with Atmos enabled and while we could hear a bit of the overhead sound effects, few of them had the same depth and clarity we’ve heard on other systems.

Stream some music from any Chromecast-compatible service or via Bluetooth, and you’ll find that the SN8YG is a surprisingly musical system. The swelling of orchestral scores is boosted by the subwoofer to give a sense of dynamism and traditional rock and rap feels forceful thanks to the emphasis on mid-range vocals. 

Lastly, if you have any Hi-Res Audio sources like a compatible Blu-ray player or AVR, you can take advantage of the SN8YG’s Hi-Res Audio playback support, which makes your music collection sound even better.

Should you buy the LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar? 

LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

Buy it if... 

Your TV’s built-in audio just isn’t cutting it
First and foremost, the SN8YG is a rock-solid soundbar that radically enhances the mid-range audio, boosting vocal clarity and can make conversations incredibly clear. It adds some low-end bass to bring some punch to explosions, vehicle chases and, for music lovers, intensifies bass drops, bass grooves and anything percussive. 

You want Dolby Atmos in a unibody speaker
Some people hate clutter and want the most clean, cable-free solution out there. For those folks, the SN8YG is perfect because outside the HDMI cable that runs to your TV and two power cables that plug into the wall, it’s 100% wireless. It’s basically Dolby Atmos in a box.

You want Google Assistant in your living room
If you’ve been thinking about adding a Google Assistant speaker to your living room, the SN8YG kills two birds with one stone. Connecting the speaker to your Google Home app takes seconds and once it’s paired you can use it as a Chromecast Audio device.

LG SN8YG 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

Don’t buy it if... 

You’re easily frustrated by non-functioning apps
Getting the LG Wi-Fi Speaker to locate the soundbar was an exercise in frustration. At the time this article was published, it had a 1.6 star rating on the Apple App Store with over 100 reviews, many of which complain about connectivity issues.

You want a true Dolby Atmos experience
One of the biggest challenges of Dolby Atmos soundbars is that they’re tasked with re-creating height channels using half the power of traditional bookshelf speakers. The result is weak upfiring sound that doesn’t really do justice to a cinematic Dolby Atmos mix.

You want the cheapest soundbar out there
Even at its new marked-down price, the SN8YG isn’t very affordable for most folks. In fact, for most, this soundbar will cost more than their TV. If you’re looking for something more affordable, Vizio has a number of similar soundbars that cost $150 less or, if you really want to save some money, you can ditch Atmos to save hundreds.